Ways to Get Through Winter on a Budget

Winter can be expensive – between higher utility bills, paying for heavier clothing, indoor activities, transportation in regard to weather conditions, and more. Here are a few tips to help you save during the coldest months of the year.

Lower Your Heating Bill

You have probably heard this before, but it really does work: add an extra layer of clothing and lower your thermostat at home. You may not like wearing heavier clothes around the house at first, but when you get your heating bill in the mail – you will be very glad you did. Besides lowering your home thermostat, other ways to save on your electric or gas bill in winter include making sure you have properly insulated windows and doors. All of these items can really add up and become a huge waste of resources, and your money.

Pay Less for Winter Clothing

If you have children, take a look at their winter coats. Can they be handed down from one child to the next, or how about extended family – do you have anything you can pass on or maybe other family members have coats that can be passed onto your kids? Winter coats aren’t cheap, so if you can avoid having to buy new ones each winter before they get outgrown – family or friend hand me downs are a great idea.

If you do need to buy a new winter coat for your children, try to purchase it at the end of the winter season for next year. If you don’t get a chance to buy off-season, remind yourself to take advantage of winter sales at the end of the year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These tips work for adult winter clothing as well. Plus, don’t forget to check out apps like Poshmark and Mercari where you can often find new or gently used brand clothing items for a steal (and even sell your own clothing and shoes).

Save on Winter Sports

Does your family enjoy winter sports? Winter sports like skiing, snow tubing, and snowboarding can get very expensive when you take into account the cost of equipment, maintenance, and warm clothes and boots. Plus, if you don’t live near the mountains – the added cost of travel, hotel, access tickets, or equipment rental.

This is another area to buy winter sporting equipment and clothing off-season to save money. At the end of this winter season, look for items that can be used next winter and get them on sale. You can also look for deals on access tickets online or if you’re a frequent visitor, research and see if you can save by buying family passes for the entire season.

Winter Activities

Because it’s often too cold to be outside, winter indoor activities can really add up. When it’s warmer out, it’s easy to go to the local park and allow your kids to play outside (for free). If you find your family going to the movies each weekend (which isn’t cheap either) and then buying refreshments there, or going to an indoor theme park and again paying for what seems like endless amounts of food and beverages – think about doing some research and making a few changes to the winter family activity budget. Maybe some weekends you can instead rent a movie at home and purchase popcorn and snacks from the grocery store, have a family baking or cooking day at home, and look for coupons online if you do decide to hit that indoor theme park or the movies. It may take a little legwork and planning, but doing so can really help your bank account and still allow for plenty of family fun during winter months.

Article Source: Vered Deleeuw for Moneyning.com

3 Ways to Recover From a Blown Holiday Budget

Now that the holiday season has come to a close, you are probably looking at your bank statements and credit card bills with wide eyes.

So, what can you do to get yourself back on track financially after the holidays? Here are three helpful tips to set your budget straight.

Sell, Sell, and Keep Selling

Declutter your house and see what you can sell. It’s one of the easiest ways to get rid of extra things you no longer use, plus make some cash after spending during the holiday season.

  1. First, find out which big items you can sell and then list those on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or various selling apps (Let go, etc.)
  2. Next, look through your closets for brand name clothing that can be sold on eBay, or apps like Poshmark and Mercari. This can really add up. As you go through your closet, snap pictures of the items you are planning to sell on your smartphone and upload them to the above mentioned apps. See how you do – if your items don’t sell in a few weeks, then put them aside to sell at your yearly yard sale in the warmer weather or make a local clothing bin donation.
  3. Lastly, request a bag from Thredup.com or Kindermint.com and pack them with clothes that your family doesn’t need. Most of the items that don’t sell in steps 1 and 2, will be hand-me-downs or 50-cent-finds, so after awhile if nothing is selling and you only get a couple dollars for your items – you are still coming out ahead.

Don’t Spend Money in January

Have you ever tried a month without spending money? The idea is that you cut unnecessary spending (eating out, home décor buys, clothes, and so on), and eat out of your pantry, fridge, and freezer for the entire month.

You are permitted to give yourself $20-40 a week to spend on milk, eggs, bread, and fruit/vegetables at the grocery store – but that’s it!

This is a great time to use up any food items that you may have around but forgot about. Plus, an extra $300 or more would be nice to put toward any credit card debt, or replenish your savings account – right?

Earn Additional Income

Does your job allow you to add overtime or do freelance work? If so, take advantage in January and February to help you pay down those holiday bills.

Be creative. Perhaps you can ask your employer for overtime opportunities, or take on a small baby/pet-sitting position. Even renting out your home or car, can produce extra income if you have the means to do so and live/commute another way.

Recovering from high spending like the holiday season can be tough, but with these steps you can overcome that blown budget relatively quickly and start off the new year on a better financial path.

Article Source:  Ashley Eneriz for Moneyning.com

Last Minute and Small Gifts that Can Make a Big Impact this Holiday Season

The holiday season is arguably one of the best times of the year. However, who wants to spend the first half of the new year paying off gift purchases from the previous year? Big ticket items are often at the top of most people’s lists, but bigger doesn’t always mean better. You can give meaningful gifts without breaking the bank.

Here are some smaller gifts that will still make a big impact this year, or some ideas for those of you who are known to be last minute shoppers!

1. Gift Certificates

Gift cards may seem boring or even cliché, but they make a great gift – as long as you buy them with the recipient in mind. Don’t just grab any gift card just to get a gift card. Choose one your recipient will love, but would probably never buy for themselves. The dollar amount doesn’t need to be huge either, it just needs to be from somewhere your recipient will love or a place you know they go to frequently.

2. An Item that Represents a Happy Memory

Maybe it’s a memento from your first date or an early encounter with your significant other, which could be a photo of the two of you in a nice frame, or even a coupon for a home cooked meal of a favorite shared dish. The idea here is to recreate an already happy memory the two of you shared together and to be as thoughtful as possible.

3. Ornaments

One of the best things about ornaments is that they get hung on the family tree, year after year. Ornaments are a gift that will keep giving, and reintroducing your present into memory with every passing holiday season. A gifted ornament can be store bought and sentimental or, even better – homemade. Do you have a niece or nephew who plays a certain sport? If so, an ornament for the sport they play is a great gift idea. Some shops will even personalize them for you with the recipient’s name, the current year, and a jersey number. Ornaments are generally inexpensive, and always thoughtful.

4. Books

There are few store bought presents that are as personal as a well-selected book. You most likely won’t be buying the same books for everyone on your list. To be really meaningful, each book must be tailored to the specific reader. Stop into your local book store or log into Amazon and go through your gift list. You could probably choose a great book for everyone on your list and spend an average of $10. If your recipient has a Kindle, you can even download an eBook instantly and send it to their Kindle electronically. eBooks are even less money than a paperback or hardcover book would be, and the possibilities are endless!

5. Games

If you have children on your gift list – sons, daughters, nieces, or nephews, then you can’t go wrong with a great game. Choose a classic board game that will help the child develop life skills while also using their imagination. Board games can be a fun and inexpensive gift, which also create happy memories of playing them among family and friends.

6. Movies

A good movie is something that can be enjoyed over and over. Like books, you’ll need to tailor your film selection to the individuals on your gift list. Movies too can be purchased at low prices, from family favorites to the new releases, and even giving electronically or via gift card (think Netflix) to your recipient.

The idea is to keep the holiday season a fun and festive time, and rather than blowing your budget and going into debt – give a small but meaningful gift that also creates a happy memory.

Article Source: Tracy for Moneyning.com

How to Holiday Shop and Not Regret it in the New Year

It’s the holiday season and we love spending money on those we care about right? It’s very easy to overspend when it comes to holiday shopping.  According to a recent Gallup study, 1/3 of consumers expected to spend over $1,000 on gifts. While that might seem like a great idea in December, there may be some regrets spending that amount come January. If you’d like to avoid demolishing your budget with holiday spending this year, consider these few tips.

Stick to a set budget: It can be really easy to add a few extra items to your shopping cart when you see big sales and savings. It can be even easier if you’re shopping online. What you really need to do is plan ahead, and if you already missed the boat this year – start now for next November. Figure out how much you’ve set aside to spend and don’t allow yourself to make any last minute or impulse purchases. Think about who you’re buying for and pick out something within budget that you know they’ll love. If you’re under budget, choose some smaller items or stocking stuffers until you’ve met your spending goal.

Start early: Are you a last minute shopper who typically hits the mall on December 23 or 24? Unfortunately you won’t find nearly as many deals on December 22 or 23 as you would if you started looking in early November.  Plus, even if you do find exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll probably be in such a hurry to finish your shopping, that you may be forced to pay whatever the price tag says without any sale options since you’ll be out of time.  If you start coming up with ideas in October or November, you’ll have plenty of time to do your research, save up, and find the best deals. Don’t overpay for last minute gifts that you could have gotten on sale weeks ago.

Save your receipts: There’s nothing worse than buying someone a clothing item and then finding out you bought the wrong size. No matter what you’re buying, there’s a chance it’s going to need to be returned. If you don’t have receipts, it’s quite possible the store won’t refund your money in full. If you can remember to get a gift receipt and include it with your gift – even better!

If you would like to get ahead of the game for next year’s holiday shopping – ask us about our Holiday Club Savings Account. You can easily setup payroll deductions from each paycheck to automatically go into the account, and by October you’ll be all set to shop for everyone on your list!*

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. View full Rewards First program details at firstffcu.com.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Tips for Holiday Shopping on a Budget

‘Tis the season…to avoid going broke buying presents for your loved ones. It’s easy to do, right? Sometimes we get carried away and spend more money than we intended to. You don’t want to look like a cheap gift giver, but you also don’t want to buy the whole store either. So, how do you buy awesome gifts for everyone on your list without breaking the bank? We have a few tips to help keep your wallet full this holiday season.

Make a List, Check it Twice. Hey, the process works for Santa so it can work for you too! Start with a list of people you plan to buy for, jot down the gifts you think they’ll love and then check it twice. Santa has to buy gifts for the whole world, but you don’t have to. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, trim your list. Look at alternatives like homemade gifts or baked goods so you can spread holiday cheer without looking like a Scrooge or going broke.

Create a Budget Based on Your Finances. Your best friend started a great job a few years ago and always gets you the most amazing gifts. However, if you’re in a different place in your financial life, don’t overextend yourself to match another’s gifts. Look at your budget and see what you can do. Don’t shop based on what you think you should spend. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” really does ring true here. It’s still possible to give thoughtful gifts to your loved ones without going into debt.

Take Advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Online Deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest shopping days of the year. And for good reason – those are the two days you can get the best deals and save the most money. Electronics and toys are usually highly desired items on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so if those are on your list, don’t miss the discounts. However if you did miss these two shopping days this year, keep checking your list and retailers’ websites and promotional emails – a lot of the time they end up extending their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales or even offering new discounts in the weeks leading up to December 25th.

Keep It Local. Shopping local is a great way to save a little cash while also supporting local businesses. Because there are fewer hands involved, buying local can often save you some money. You’ll likely save by purchasing green beans from a produce stand because the farmer doesn’t have to divvy up profits the way a chain supermarket does. It’s also a great way to improve your local economy. Plus, shopping at local businesses helps to improve your town’s economy. Follow your local news and check Facebook pages in your area to see what businesses are offering locally made products.

We know that holiday shopping can be stressful. You’re paying your regular bills, taking care of your regular expenses, and planning for holiday shopping on top of that. It can be tempting to open multiple credit cards or store cards, which often come with incredibly high interest rates. Don’t get stuck paying big balances on multiple cards. We have numerous options that can help you fund your holiday shopping without breaking the bank!

Let us help. Stop by, check out our website or give us a call to see what money saving options we have to help you this holiday season.

‘Tis the Season (for Holiday Fraud)

The best time of the year is here, but it’s also a time of year when fraud increases too. If you are doing any sort of holiday shopping, be aware of the following scam tactics designed to steal your personal and financial information:

E-Skimming – This is what happens when a scammer gets control of an unsecure link within a website that you may be shopping on. Without even realizing it, you could be redirected to a malicious domain where a skimming code can capture your personal and financial information as you are making your purchase online. Such a skimming code would be sent to a remote server in real time where fraudsters would be collecting all your personal data. This data is often sold and then used to make fraudulent purchases in your name afterward. Before you click on any links in emails or on the web – make sure it’s a secure website (you’ll see an https at the top) and only open emails from trusted sources.

Social Media Scams – Sometimes social media platforms are used to set up a fake online store. The site will feature advertising messages and take payments, but unfortunately you will never receive what you ordered and your financial information may also be compromised in the process. When following a brand on social media, look to see if it’s a verified business (blue check mark in the profile) and look to see their website and contact details, number of followers, and the like. If something seems off or too good to be true, it probably is.

Porch Pirates – This is a big time of year when delivered packages often disappear from the doorstep of unsuspecting homes and businesses. Be sure to track anything ordered as it ships to you, look for a delivery confirmation from the retailer, and try to not leave packages out on your porch for hours on end. If you are going to be away from home when a package is delivered, ask a trusted neighbor or family member to pick it up and hold it for you.

Shipment Update Scam Emails – You may find that a fraudster sends you a fake email that tells you your item failed to deliver and then asks you for updated shipping and contact information. This is a scam! The email may look legit (though you will usually find a fake or unusually long email address with a slightly different domain name), but it often contains a link with malware that will steal your personal information if you click on it. The original retailer has all of this contact information and will not ask you for it again.

Donations to Fake Charities – Scammers know that people love to give back this time of year. A donation scam will often duplicate a charity website and get you to click on a link (which is malware) to donate money. Instead of going to the actual charity, your donation goes right into the pocket of a criminal. Do your research before you donate, ensure the site is legitimate and verified.

Additional steps you can take to help prevent fraud this holiday season:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts to receive emails and/or texts for all your credit and debit cards.
  • Pay careful attention to links in emails and on websites.
  • Try to avoid entering card information into website forms. Instead use PayPal or a digital wallet like Apple or Google Pay when you can.
  • Make sure your home computer and mobile devices have anti-virus protection and a firewall.
  • Only shop on well-known and verified websites when buying online.
  • Go directly to a retailer’s website yourself instead of through a social media ad.
  • Look for skimming devices at the ATM or a gas station pump.
  • Monitor your bank accounts on a daily basis and if you see a purchase that was not made by you, report it to your financial institution right away.

Follow the above tips for an enjoyable, safe, and risk free holiday season. Think First!

Article Source: CUNA Mutual Risk Alert 11/14/19